Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all

 

–Emily Dickinson

Childcare Transitions

At one point or another, every child I’ve ever watched has had a “first day” and each day is unique.

In the last two months, I’ve had the privilege of adding two new clients.  The first was an older infant who has been in daycare almost from the start and the second is a little boy who will be 2 in about a week.  He has been in childcare in the past, but it has been months.  His mother has been unemployed for awhile and just started a new job this week.

The transition for the infant was seamless.  She’s fairly easy going (although not a great sleeper yet) and has been in the care of babysitters of daycare providers continually since she was 8 weeks old.  Being in unfamiliar areas is normal for her.

I knew the little boy would have a more challenging transition.  I expect that it may take a full 6 weeks for him to adjust but it was clear today that he is making good progress.

When children have a hard time transitioning from the care of a parent to a babysitter or daycare provider, one of the things I have learned is that a quick drop-off is the best for all parties involved.  Parents who linger, continually trying to reassure a teary-eyed child only add to the emotions because it is abundantly clear they don’t want to leave, either.

If your child is unhappy about your leaving, there are some things you can do to help out.  First, before the first drop off tell your child when you’ll be back to pick them up.  Time has little meaning, but saying things like, “I’ll be back to pick you up after naptime” can be a big help.  Don’t repeat the message; once is enough.  Then give your child a firm hug and/or kiss, then leave.  If the child tries to follow you, allow the new caregiver to pick him or her up and soothe them.  Do not turn back around for another quick goodbye or to reassure because it makes the transition harder.

As a care provider, there are a few things I’ve learned that I can do to help with the transition, too.  The first is to immediately engage the child in his or her favorite activity.  Whether it’s playing with trains, singing time, or a trip to the park–DO something engaging.

Some children will continue to cry or whimper for hours on end which can be frustrating.  Today was the third day and although he went whimper free for an hour yesterday, he spent the other three hours whining.  I didn’t want that to become his standard mode of operation.  I do not allow whining in my house so I stepped up my game.  We left for the park just as soon as all the children for the morning were here.  Before leaving I packed snacks and drinks, knowing we’d stay at the park as long as we reasonably could.

The walk to the park was slow, but once we sat down for a quick snack, the little boy’s face began to light up.  We then played.  I took advantage of the empty playground and left the babies in the double stroller and jumped onto the play equipment and played with the children, rather just sitting on the bench and watching them or standing by to catch them if they fell off one of the climbing walls.  He thought my shenanigans on the zip beam were hilarious and motioned for a turn. 

Everything was going smoothly and it was getting to be naptime for the babies so we headed home.  As we approached my door he began to whine again.  We entered the house and I left the stroller in the entryway, placed the little boy on the bottom step, put my finger gently on his lips and told him firmly that whining is not allowed in my house and he was to stay on the step until he stopped whining.

It took about fifteen minutes, with a finger-in-the-lips repeat every 2 or 3, until he understood that I meant business.  At that point I followed my guy.  I *knew* that if I just had him play he’d start whining again.  So instead, it took his diaper off and placed him on the potty.  He stayed there until he peed, about a half an hour.  I sat right next to him and the babies tried to climb all over him, so he wasn’t just sitting in a corner (he was actually right in the middle of the playroom).

When he peed I quietly got up, grabbed his diaper, then put a huge grin on my face and used my excited voice to tell him he had done a good job going pee on the potty.  He seemed rather underwhelmed, but that’s alright.  His real feelings were revealed when his mother arrived about 10 minutes later.

When she came in, he opened up again and started chatting.  There was no whining or crying like the two previous days and he even kept waiving and saying “Good bye!” as she walked out the door.  It made me feel good to know that my “tough” discipline with requiring him to sit on the steps until he could stop whining and then the time on the potty were rewarded with such a warm goodbye.

I can only hope that in the next few days, each drop-off transition will be smoother and quicker.  If the mother follows my advice about the quick separation, it should be.

*fingers crossed* Here’s hoping!!

My Parenting Switch-a-Roo

Before becoming a mother I’d heard that every parent has a moment where they decide that a change in their parenting style needs to happen.

I had one of those moments a few weeks ago.  This Moment coincided with moving the girls into the same room together, rather than having their own rooms.

My two daughters are 4 years and 6 days apart.  The two year old is incredibly communicative for someone her age and she and her older sister have, in the past 8 months, begun fighting over toys, messes they’re supposed to be cleaning, who sits where at the table, etc. 

The fighting is nothing unusual.  I grew in a family with four children and the fighting was a near constant thing, with someone always yelling, “Mom!  She hit me!” Or “Mom, she won’t give me my stuff!”  As far as I can recall, my mother always intervened in one form or another.

My bold step is that I’m no longer intervening in the disagreements my daughters have.  They holler for me and my response is, “Work it out on your own.”

The exception, of course, is if one of them starts hitting the other.  That simply isn’t tolerated.

I realize that three weeks really isn’t very long to consider a “change” a success but I can see already that my backed-off approach is working.  The fights they are having aren’t as loud or as long.  The two of them are learning how to compromise, share, and work things out without the need or even desire to have me work it out for them.

Some of this desire was due to an unpleasant event that occurred near the end of my Christmas vacation.  I had chosen not to be on speaking terms with one of my sisters when it became clear that having her in my life was creating negativity that I didn’t want.  It was not a decision I’d made quickly or lightly.  This same sister decided to take matters into her own hands and requested a meeting with her, her husband, our other sister, my husband, and our father.

I found the entire “meeting” highly offensive.  For one, I was informed the meeting would happen via our younger sister about 2 hours before the meeting happened, rather than my dad or the sister requesting the meeting.  Second, we are in our 30s.  There is absolutely no reason to involve our dad.  We’re not children.  Thirdly, Sister-wanting-the-meeting came “armed” with emails I had sent her and that she had supposedly sent me.  She clearly had an agenda but chose not to allow me the same opportunity to prepare for this meeting.

In short, my husband and I were ambushed. . . by a sibling who has never learned how to work out her problems without daddy getting involved. 

On a side note, my mother used to be the one involved but since she’s passed away, that is not an option.

Yesterday an old friend shared an article that validated how I feel about my parents’ involvement in sibling squabbles when we were young as well as the decision I’ve made to be more hands-off in the fighting my children do.

The article, which I highly recommend you read, can be found at http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/nation-wimps

From the very first paragraph I was sucked in.

Maybe it’s the cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path… at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.

The author, Hara Estroff Marano, goes on to talk about educational accommodations, something I dealt with in my former life as a high school math teacher and still deal with as a private tutor, as well as changes in college aged adult behavior, the change in age for the social markers of adulthood, playtime for youngsters,  and anxiety.

It’s a great article for people of ANY age, but particularly fabulous for parents and parents-to-be.

To give another example from my personal life: my parents let us ride our bikes to school in a group of friends starting in 1st grade.  The route was close to 2.5 miles and crossed a very busy road.  We moved and began riding the bus when I was 8.  I believe Mom walked us to the bus stop that first day so we’d know where it was, but that was it.

In contrast, neighbors have been making comments about me because I let my 6 year old walk home from the bus stop by herself.  It’s 80 yards and involves a nice sidewalk and a short small neighborhood street crossing with good visibility in both directions so she can easily see cars coming from both directions.  The other parents at the bus stop still walk their 4th graders home! 

I have said before to friends, and maybe even in one of my few blog posts, that my goal as a parent is to raise my children to be independent adults.  That independence isn’t just financial, but also emotional.  Clearly, my Sister-wanting-the-meeting is not emotionally independent.  She’s a mother of 4, with one on the way, and still wants her father to pick her battles and make the world better.

It’s highly distressing!

Hara Estroff Marano isn’t alone in her thoughts.  You can read similar articles here here and here.

I Missed a Febrile Seizure

Twice in the last 5 years I have held a child who was having a febrile seizure.  The first time I recognized it almost immediately but the second time, just a couple days ago, I didn’t realize that a seizure had happened until 2 days later.

If you’ve never heard of them, febrile seizures are sort of like electrical storms in the brain.  They typically occur in 2% to 5% of children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years[1] and the seizure generally happens at the onset of a high fever (102⁰F taken rectally).

A febrile seizure is not caused by epilepsy.

Some statistics worth sharing:

  • Febrile seizures tend to run in families
  • Children under 12 months of age at the time of their first seizure have a 50% chance of having another febrile seizure
  • Children who experience their first febrile seizure after 12 months have a 30% chance of having another febrile seizure

Would you know how to recognize a febrile seizure?

While teaching in public schools I overheard a conversation that a new special education teacher was having with her experienced assistant.  The assistant mentioned that many parents and teachers fail to recognize small seizures in their children because the signs can be hard to spot and don’t last long.  She mentioned that sometimes it’s as simple as a far off stare with the arms raising slightly seemingly of their own will. 

At the time, the only type of seizure I had heard about was grand-mal seizures: the kind typically represented in mainstream media with a person falling to the floor and convulsing. I hadn’t realized that the signs of a seizure could be so subtle as a bizarre stare and arm-raising.

About 5 months after overhearing the conversation, I had the opportunity to witness a febrile seizure first hand in my daughter.  She was 16 months old and had just developed a high fever in a very rapid period of time.  In the matter of half an hour her temperature went from normal to over 103⁰F taken orally.

My daughter and I were visiting family out-of-state and we didn’t have health insurance.  While discussing the financial pitfall a trip to the doctor would create for us due to our lack of insurance, her eyes rolled back in an unusual way, followed by a blank stare and some abnormal drooling.  Her body had stiffened during the event and she completely slumped over when it ended.  The whole thing probably lasted only 10-15 seconds, but it was enough for me to know that something had happened that wasn’t normal.

My brain went into “research memory mode” and stumbled upon the information about seizures from the conversation and I determined that health insurance or not—my daughter needed to see a doctor.  At that point, I still had no knowledge of febrile seizures but was fairly certain my daughter had had a seizure.

The doctor we saw confirmed that my toddler had massive ear infections as well as her sinuses and upper respiratory tract being infected.  He then went on to tell me that she’d had a febrile seizure and talked to me about them.  He mentioned that they tend to run in families, but to my knowledge, nobody in my family had ever had a seizure.

The next morning when I called my mother-in-law to share our experience, she told me that all 4 of her children had, at one point in their youth, experienced a febrile seizure.  This would have been very useful information BEFORE it happened!

A healthy dose of antibiotics and some fever reducers helped get my daughter back to her cheery self in a day or two.

Sadly, my second experience with a febrile seizure happened without me knowing it at all.

Monday afternoon one of the little boys I babysit (age 25 months) began to act really run down.  I held him to give him a hug and realized he felt a little warm.  As his level of tolerance decreased and his crabbiness increased, I picked him up and held him close in my rocking chair.  His mother was due to arrive at any minute and he clearly needed some loves.

While holding him, his eyes closed and I thought he was on the verge of sleep. 

You know how sometimes as you fall asleep you sort of jerk yourself awake?  Or have you ever held a child who did that?

Well, that’s that this little boy did, except the jerky motion was magnified and it happened 3 times in quick succession.  I would have to say the first two convulsions happened about 8 seconds apart and the last one, which was milder, was about 15 seconds later.  These were definitely stronger than the typical “falling asleep shake”.

I was holding him at an angle so the side of his head was resting on my chest.  His eyes definitely had a far-off stare, but I attributed that to his “falling asleep”.  I suspect that if I’d been looking at him straight on that I would have seen an eye-roll similar to what my daughter had done.

When his mother arrived he immediately put his head on her shoulder and didn’t move.  I took the time to explain what had happened.  A fever-virus-cough had made the rounds through my home so I thought perhaps he’d caught that.

When his fever didn’t go down and his mother realized he was one sick little boy, she took him into the emergency room.  She gave the ER doctor a description of the jerking I’d mentioned and the doctor said that he’d had a febrile seizure.  Like me, she didn’t know much about them and was given the same information I had been given several years ago about treatment (there is none), their harmless effect, and cause.

In this little boy’s case, an ear infection was to blame.  He has tubes in his ears so his mom was surprised to find out there was an infection.  In fact, further testing revealed that his infection is in the mastoid bone as well, so it had spread quite rapidly beyond the typical ear infection.

In a nutshell, if you have a child who develops a high fever, particularly if the fever goes up rapidly, watch for any one or combination of the following:

  • Far-off stare or “eyes rolling back in the head”
  • Abnormal and/or excessive drooling
  • Jerking/convulsive movement, particularly on one side of the body or with just one limb
  • Loss of consciousness

If you suspect your child has had a febrile seizure, the American Academy of Pediatrics says to call your doctor right away.  Although there is no treatment for febrile seizures, the doctor will want to examine your child to find out why the fever is there in the first place.

For more information on febrile seizures, click here.

If you’d like more information on infections of the mastoid (mastoiditis), read here.


[1] American Academy of Pediatrics www.healthychildren.org

 

Snark Post

Here is how you make good money in your spare time:

Go back in time, get a degree in mathematics, teach high school for 4 years.

Move to Cashburn (Ashburn, VA) and let a few friends know you tutor.

Within 2 years you’ll have more students wanting your help than you have time for.  And at a MINIMUM of $45/hour, you’ll be doin’ just fine.

*In all seriousness, I think I’m working waaaaaay too many hours and might have to consider changing my personal money-making plans in the future.*  

 

Don’t Shoot!!

Two days ago I had a wonderful learning experience.  After quite a bit of thought and after hearing stories from male friends, I decided that I wanted to spend my birthday at the local shooting range, Silver Eagle Group.

The night before, our friend brought over his two guns.  The first one I handled was a Sig Sauer P229 similar to the one shown below.  Carefully and methodically he walked me through a variety of the gun’s parts, loading, unloading, the non-standard safety, positioning, and grip.

The second gun was a Remington 870 he’d outfitted with an extendable pistol grip.  It looked a lot like the one you see below.  Even knowing it would be rather heavy, I was still surprised at how much effort it took to keep it horizontal.  It’s not that I couldn’t do it, but I could tell that it wasn’t a weapon I could hold and shoot for more than a few minutes without causing some serious muscle fatigue.

Remington 870

Although I’d heard most of the information on loading, gripping, and safety in the past, I had never been through it while actually holding a gun.  I was surprised at the weight and at how my sensitivity to my surroundings changed the moment the gun was in my hand.  Hyper-awareness consumed me in a way I’ve never experienced as far as my surroundings were concerned.  Both guns were unloaded and we were in our basement but the hyper-sensitivity made me more aware of just where I was positioned, who was holding which weapon, and to be sure not to just walk wherever I wanted to.

Saturday morning arrived and we took off shortly after the babysitter arrived.

My first surprise was how many women were wandering around the registration/check-in desk as well as those who were already in the lanes.  I was probably one of the oldest women there which was equally shocking.  I believe the other women were in their early twenties and they were clearly enjoying themselves.  There were no men in any of the small groups of women except one (most likely a husband/wife pair).

At Silver Eagle Group, they have a flat $15 gun rental fee.  So during your hour you can rent whatever or however many guns you want, one at a time.  The only catch is that you have to use their ammo, so multiple guns can mean a variety of different boxes of ammo to purchase.

For a first-timer I chose a 9mm Glock.  It was similar to the handgun I’d handled the night before and seemed like a good fit.  Another member of our group chose a Russian bolt-action rifle.  Then of course there were the 2 guns our friend had brought.

The range was much louder than I’d expected it to be, even with the headphones.  The noise was bad enough that a 9 year old boy was on his way out in tears.  He simply couldn’t handle the noise.

Once we were set up, I let my husband shoot first.  He let off five rounds then handed the gun over to me.  That first shot went about 10 inches low and 2 inches to the left of where I thought I’d been aiming.  I’d been told it wasn’t unusual for a novice to compensate for the kick the gun creates with firing.  It only took me another 2 shots before I was shooting within a 4 inch radius of my intended target.

As our hour progressed, I had the chance to fire the shotgun as well as an AR15.

 

AR15

There is something distinctly satisfying about the noise and feel of discharging the shell casing and reload on that shotgun.  I’ve spent the better part of the last 13 years playing video games and the sensation  of the reload on the shotgun was exactly as I’d imagined.  The surprise was the smell and the smoke.

The AR15 turned out to be my favorite of the morning.  It had a scope and my first shot hit smack-dab in the middle of the red bull’s eye.  The other 3 shots all landed within 2 inches of the first, in spite of my eye-protection deciding to fog up and making the scope less effective.  I had heard that the AR15 was a popular gun and having shot it, I can see why.

My experience has definitely changed my opinion on gun ownership.  I’ve never had a problem with gun ownership as a general rule.  I’ve always felt that if someone has proper training, a clear background and emotional state, and the money to keep the guns stored safely, then GREAT!!  I just didn’t want to own one.  I’d also felt very strongly that too many people owned guns and are all bent out of shape about their rights to gun ownership.

Having been to the range just once I’m already rethinking my decision to NOT own a gun.  It became very clear to me that if I was to purchase a gun for home protection, it would be some sort of shotgun.  That loading noise alone might be enough to scare someone off.  If not, it’s easy to shoot and hard to miss, particularly with birdshot and in my small home.  The birdshot would also make it highly unlikely that, if fired, the shot would go through the walls of our home and into our neighbors’ homes.  We live in a townhome, so there’s nothing more than a wall between us.  The 9mm rounds I fired could easily penetrate the adjoining walls.

And of course, if I ever did choose to purchase a gun, I’d ensure I maintained a membership as the shooting range and took lessons to be sure I could in fact shoot straight in a tense situation.

With my daycare business, gun ownership is highly unlikely.  Should that change, I’d have to store the gun somewhere other than in my home.  Even in a gun safe I wouldn’t feel right having it in the house

My husband and I have been blessed with two beautiful little girls.  Once they are strong enough to load the gun themselves, then they will also get to go to the range with us.  Until then, they can enjoy time with a babysitter and keep to video games.

My first shot

 

10 Things I Couldn’t Do My Job Without (Part II)

Storage Bench by Martha Stewart

#6 In my home this is known as the mud bench.  This is the place where the diaper bags and shoes go when children come to my home.  Although it only has 3 cubbies for diaper bags, there is room on the actual bench for the remaining 2 when I have a full schedule.  Toddler shoes fit nicely in the smaller cubbies and the padded bench makes for an easy location for moms to sit the child down while she removes or puts on the shoes.

When guests come in the evenings or on weekends, they can use those same cubbies for their shoes without feeling like they’re cluttering up our entry way.

The cover on the padded seat is washable, too!

#7 Why I hadn’t thought of this until about 8 months ago is beyond me: We keep a hamper in the dining room.  I have a standard kitchen garbage pail lined with a cloth diaper pail liner.  At the end of each meal, bibs and washcloths get tossed in without the need to run upstairs to our dirty laundry hampers.  The same is true with our placemats after dinner each evening.  With 9 different children, I go through a lot of bibs and washcloths and this keeps everything in one place.  The older children have learned how to open the lid and can now toss in their bibs all by themselves in slam-dunk fashion.

Triple Stroller Blurred

#8 It isn’t unusual to hear mothers complaining about the stroller they’ve purchased.  My philosophy has always been that if you are going to spend a lot of time using something, then it is worth it to spend extra money getting the one you like the most.

I purchased my stroller: The Beast.

Last year, this stroller was an absolute necessity.  I watched 3 children who weren’t walking so anytime outside mandated the use of a triple stroller.  My daughter was in kindergarten and I needed to be able to pick her up from the bus stop, rain or shine.  The stroller came with a fabulous rain cover that also works well to keep the children warm in very cold or windy conditions.  The 3rd seat, a jump seat, removes easily to use as a double stroller.  There is also a rain cover for the double stroller format.  I have jogged with this stroller in double formation and it is very easy to handle!  In its triple set-up, jogging is doable but only on straighter paths.

The handlebar is height-adjustable and the double seats both recline fully.  The tires are a very sturdy bike-tire design and it came with its own pump that stores in a specially designed pocket.

There is a sun shade for each seat, although in this photo the shade isn’t in place—it was put away.

In addition, The Beast is 29” wide.  Do you know what that means??  It means it fits through every single “handicap accessible” door.  The ADA currently states that doors must have a width of 32”.  Even better, the standard single door to a home or apartment is often as little as 30” and the stroller will fit through it!  In yucky weather, I can open the front door to my home and just push the stroller right through the door while all the children are still loaded up.  It then turns on a dime into the kitchen where all the rain water can fall onto the linoleum with worry about water spotting on wood or carpet.

I’ve taken The Beast to the mall, the doctors’ office, and on 4 mile walks through our lovely town.  It’s been “off-roading” in the mud, too.

When fully loaded, I’m pushing about 125 pounds of stroller + child but it barely feels like half the weight.  It simply handles beautifully.  And did I mention it folds up small enough to fit in the rear cargo space of my van with room left for groceries?!?!?!

If you have a daycare in your home or have 3 very young children, this stroller is worth every penny.  There isn’t a place this stroller can’t go or can’t do.

Disinfecting Wipes

#9 If you recall, the first item I listed on my list of ten was the Baby Bjorn potty seat.  I keep one of these in the playroom and another stays in the bathroom.  Urine is sterile, but when the children move their bowels, I need to know that the potty has been sanitized in the event one of the babies decides to crawl over and put her toys in it.  These wipes are a quick and easy way to keep the potties nice and clean.  They also come in handy on the rare occasion that someone pukes or poops on the floor.

It happens.

I also use them to wipe down the toys when needed.  This one of the only things I use that is disposable.  I prefer the recycle/reuse lifestyle but I have yet to find an alternative to these wipes for sanitizing.

This mat is similar to mine.

#10 When we removed the carpeting on the main level of our home and replaced it with the Pergo Extreme Performance flooring, I knew the children were going to need something soft to play on but the thought of putting down an expensive rug that would be difficult to clean didn’t appeal to me.  After doing some extensive research on the safety of the foam flooring I went ahead and made the purchase.

There was a definite chemical odor as was promised by the safety research articles I’d read.  However, I noticed that the smell dissipated just as fast as promised and the flooring has been wonderful.  I use it as a teaching tool for colors, letter, and numbers.  We play a toddler version of twister on it (who needs a slippery small white mat when they have this on the floor??) as well as assigning colors during singing time.

The mats pull apart and wipe down very easily when cleaning is needed.  They also stack up well when I need to sweep or mop the floor underneath.  After washing, I generally assemble the foam tiles into cubes.  We stack these and knock them over repeatedly!  It’s like gigantic building blocks only the crash is quieter and because the blocks are foam, they don’t hurt if someone happens to be standing on the wrong side of a tower that gets knocked over.  We have even done air bowling with these: throw the ball and see how many pillars of blocks you can knock over.

The only catch to these is that they are more delicate than I thought.  A low heal on a shoe leaves a permanent dent in the flooring, as do teeth marks if a teething baby happens to pull an edge off and start chewing on it.  But still, for the price I paid and the use I get from them, they are wonderful.

Now, if I could find a truly effective method of toy storage . . .